Disability is often described as a tragedy, a crisis, or an aberration, though 1 in 5 people worldwide have a disability. Why is this common human experience rendered exceptional?
In All Our Families, disability studies scholar Jennifer Natalya Fink argues that this thinking originates in our families. When we cut a disabled member out of the family story, disability remains a trauma instead of a shared and ordinary experience. This makes disability and its diagnosis traumatic and exceptional.
Weaving together stories of members of her own family with sociohistorical research, Fink illustrates how the eradication of disabled people from family narratives is rooted in racist, misogynistic, and antisemitic sorting systems inherited from Nazis. By examining the rhetoric of genetic testing, she shows that a fear of disability begins before a child is even born and that a fear of disability is, fundamentally, a fear of care. Fink analyzes our racist and sexist care systems, exposing their inequities as a source of stigmatizing ableism.
Inspired by queer and critical race theory, Fink calls for a lineage of disability: a reclamation of disability as a history, a culture, and an identity. Such a lineage offers a means of seeing disability in the context of a collective sense of belonging, as a cause for celebration. It is a call for a radical reimagining of care work and kinship. All Our Families challenges us to re-lineate disability within the family as a means of moving toward a more inclusive and flexible structure of care and community.
Jennifer Natalya Fink is the director of the Program in Disability Studies and a professor of English at Georgetown University. She is the author of 6 books and the founder of the Gorilla Press, a nonprofit promoting youth literacy through bookmaking. Fink is the winner of the Dana Award for the Novel and the Catherine Doctorow Prize for Innovative Fiction, as well as a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. First and foremost, she is a mother; the transformative experience of parenting her autistic daughter is the center of her work.
This is a Tandem Book Club event! Join us at 6:30pm in The Forum Library, one hour prior to the event with Jennifer Natalya Fink, to discuss the evening’s featured topic.
Topic: Discussing Disability
Tandem Book Club title: Disability Visibility by Alice Wong
Presented by Town Hall Seattle.
This event is sponsored by The Boeing Company.